The Brock Talk

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rachel vs. The Greats

Excuse me. Ms. Zenyatta? Yes. Would you please move over just a bit? We've got to make a lot more room in the comparison to Rachel Alexandra conversation. I'm sorry, but we're no longer comparing just you to Rachel Alexandra. We're now comparing her to the greatest race fillies and mares of all time. Don't leave. You're still plenty welcome. But did you see the Woodward?

The abridged version of Rachel Alexandra's Woodward victory is that she appeared out of her comfort zone from the moment she got to the paddock until the final stride of the Woodward when she nosed out the hard-charging Macho Again - sending the Saratoga grandstand into a uproar probably seldom hear in the long and storied history of the Spa. She misbehaved in the post parade, looking like she wanted no piece of the old boys she just met. As she was walking to the starting gate, her usual confident and noble presence seemed to be in a galaxy far, far away as her ears flopped around as if she had just swallowed a bad oat.

Then Rachel Alexandra left the gate like her tail was on fire, looking as she just wanted to get away from all the ugly bastards in the race with her. When Da Tara stayed with her through a blazing first two furlongs, I said it was over for the girl. I said it again at the top of the stretch when she appeared on the verge of being swalled up by a legion of challengers. I thought she was really done then.

She then kicked in that gear that jockey Calvin Borel has been telling us about and pulled away slowly but convincing, only to be asked for more by Borel as Macho Again roared towards her only to fall short.

At that moment Rachel Alexandra erased all doubt and other weak arguments as to her greatness.

But to further the point, I thought it might be fun to actually revisit some of the great female thoroughbreds of all time and allow you to conclude her greatness for yourself. I write this with apologies to fans of Masket, Shuvee, Lady's Secret, Pebbles, Bayakoa, Paseana, Davona Dale and others including Pan Zareta with her 76 career wins.

In 1915 Regret became the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby in her 3-year-old debut after winning the Saratoga Special, Sanford Stakes and Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga against colts in her only three starts at two. She won nine of her 11 career races, having raced against fillies only twice. Her two defeats came against males in the Saratoga Handicap, finishing eighth off of an 11-month layoff, and a nose loss to Borrow in the 1917 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park.

Like Rachel Alexandra, Ruffian (photo) was almost 17 hands tall with as much charisma and class as talent. Ruffian was not only undefeated in ten career starts before her fatal match race against Foolish Pleasure in 1975, but she had never been behind another horse in a race, going wire-to-wire in every victory. She won the filly Triple Tiarra at Belmont Park by winning the Acorn, the Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks, winning the Acorn by 8-1/4 lengths and the Mother Goose by 13-1/2. Her average margin of victory was more than 8-1/4 lengths before the match race, breaking and equaling track records along the way.

Personal Ensign was undefeated in 13 starts from 1986-1988 and concludied her career with one of the most stirring and memorable finishes in Breeders' Cup history when she held off Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors to win by a fraction of a nose. Eight of her career victories were against grade 1 company including the 1988 Whitney Handicap over Gulch and a field of older males. Her popularity among fans was unquestionalble as they made her an odds-on favorite (less than even money) in every race except the 1987 Beldame when she was let go at a generous 1.30-1.

Go For Wand had also drawn comparisons to Ruffian before and after her fatal last start in the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff when she broke down in the midst of a stretch battle with Bayakoa. She won 10 of 12 career starts going into the Distaff, including a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies as a 2-year-old. Her only two losses came in against grade 1 company in 1989 Frizette and 1990 Kentucky Oaks, finishing second in both. She never races against males however.

Although Miesque raced primarly in Europe and exclusively on grass, she was the dynamite filly of the early Breeders' Cup years having taken the 1987 and 1988 Breeders' Cup Mile against older males. She won 12 of 16 career starts with three seconds and a third and unlike her American counterparts, raced primarily against the boys having started with fillies only five times. She was third the grade 1 Prix de Morny in France in her second start at two against boys, and was second in grade 1 Prix de Diane (also known as the French Oaks) in her only loss against fillies. Ironically, her only other losses came against older males in Europe in her final preps to her Breeders Cup wins.

Again the list of great fillies and mares is much, much longer than the one I've presented here. These are just a few. But they are all unquestionalbe in the place in history.

Just as Rachel Alexandra is now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ouija Board. Say no more